Title: The Wolf Wilder
Author: Katherine Rundell
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publisher: Bloomsbury (10th September 2015)
Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, where their closest neighbours are wolves. Feo’s mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. Like the wolves, Feo has learnt to be wary of humans – even before the soldiers arrive with their guns and threats. And when the soldiers do their worst, she goes on the run with just a fugitive boy and her wolves for company – to rescue her mother and to save her pack . . .
Rating: *** (3 stars)
THE WOLF WILDER by Katherine Rundell reads like a Russian fairy tale. It tells the story of Feodora and her mother, they live in the snowbound woods of Russia. Feo’s mother is a wolf wilder, so Feo has grown up with wolves and has learnt to be wary of humans. So when soldiers from the Tsar arrive with weapons and take her mother away, Feo has no choice but to try and get her mother back.
THE WOLF WILDER has received a lot of favourable reviews, and whilst I wish I was one of those singing its praises, it left me feeling disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain magic to the book; the cover is soft to the touch, and the silver lettering sparkles beautifully in the light, and then there are the gorgeous black and white illustrations inside. Rundell’s idea of a “wolf wilder” is an interesting one, and one that she writes well. There is a very definite feeling of the fairy tale to the story, and the world Rundell writes seems almost magical.
And yet, I cannot help but feel that THE WOLF WILDER is somehow an allegory of the Russian revolution. Even forgetting that, just taking the story at face value there is something about the tale that just does not sit quite right with me. I think perhaps because whilst Rundell casts Feo in the role of hero, within the narrative it is not a role she is comfortable with – Feo is as skittish around humans as her wolves.
Having said that there are things that I think Rundell did well. I do commend Rundell for making me feel as uncomfortable as Feo felt when things got away from her. I also thought that the mirroring of the beginning and ending of the book – the fairy tale-esq narrative – was written well, and worked brilliantly.
If you are interested in Russian history, and what to see a middle grade fairy tale take on the subject then THE WOLF WILDER is an interesting place to start – though I would suggest that you check out the young adult BLOOD RED, SNOW WHITE if you like this book, or if you want to know more about Russia. THE WOLF WILDER is an imaginative telling of the beginnings of a very real subject, and I think that Rundell handles the subject sensitively.